Digital Transformation – Universities in Change

Digital Transformation – Universities in Change

There is broad agreement that the advent of the fourth industrial revolution has ushered in an impending skills gap. Nearly half of today’s jobs will be redefined within a generation¹, and nearly two-thirds of CEOs identify technology as their firm’s greatest source of future competitive advantage.

² How companies and governments respond to this is critical; the majority of Australia CEOs believe it to be the responsibility of their organisation to retrain their staff.³ Concerns also remain that the explosion in robotics and Artificial Intelligence will force employability pressures alongside the need for re-training.4

Our research shows that this is not only a problem that will impact our societies in the distant future. In the next 5 years in Australia alone, there is expected to be a shortage of over 300,000 ICT intensive workers5; employers suggest this is already having a negative impact on their business.6

It is unlikely that any industry will be immune to the impact of technological change. From law and fine arts, to fashion and agriculture – the shift from using technology to being driven by technology is likely to be an irresistible force.

At Microsoft, our mission – to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more – emboldens us to think beyond replacing workers with technology, and instead to focus on how we can work with our partners – commercial and educational – to build a new future for organisations and individuals that thrives within this shift.

We believe that the future of employment and education involves continuous re-skilling; delivering learning for life. Universities will have a central role in that future and supporting an ever-growing population of lifetime learners. The essential skills for our future will not be defined by a single period of tertiary education, nor will individuals seek to advance by pausing their career to enter full-time education for extended periods. Rather, we see a future of evolving skills, integrated into an entire lifetime, connecting across the multiple careers every person may undertake.

The role of the university must expand from a typical 3-year course with limited industry & employer engagement, to a model which ensures Australia, and Australians, stay at the forefront of emerging industries and skills. Individuals need continuous learning opportunities and support, as well as potentially full reskilling, throughout their career. Universities will thrive by providing opportunities for learning whenever and wherever an individual needs it, supported by the best academic and contemporary industrial practice.

For Microsoft, we aim to be the best partner for every organisation to thrive on the opportunities of this time of digital transformation. As a company, we believe deeply in being part of this learning evolution and a partner in delivering it successfully for everyone.

We also recognise that the switch to a true model of flexible lifelong learning is both a challenge and an opportunity for the university sector, governments and regulators everywhere.

As the pace of digitisation and transformation accelerates in Australia, the funding model for education will need to become more responsive to flexible learning and more individual learning pathways.

Learning from the service led transformation of our economy and shifts in subscriber-led business models are just some of the ways the university sector can think about delivering a lifelong approach to learning.

The university sector and funding model needs to develop further and better recognises Australia’s need to stay at the forefront of new digitally transformed industries, and rapidly develops learning journeys for individuals in every career stage.

Education and industry need to deepen their partnership and create more permeable borders between them, allowing individuals to apply their knowledge immediately in an industry context whilst learning full time, and learn new skills whilst working full time.

Together, by doing that well, we see an Australia that transforms from 1 million learning in our universities at any one time, to an Australia with 12 million active learners, all of the time from their university for life.

The opportunity for universities and industry is to harness the best academic practice, the best research practice, and the best industry practice to create this lifelong learning journey for Australians.

It’s the kind of digital transformation example that I see every day in every industry in Australia and across the world, and the kind of transformations that are creating our new economy. As a global leader in education, Australia has the opportunity now to create this new world, and to establish a future university which demonstrates that luck has nothing to do with our success.


1 Bersin by Deloitte, Predictions for Talent Strategy 2017

2 Korn Ferry, The Trillion-Dollar Difference

3 ACS, 2018

4 Financial Review, 2018

5 Microsoft, 2018

6 Arnnet, 2017

As Managing Director, Steven Worrall is responsible for Microsoft’s overall business in Australia. He ensures the company meets the needs of its customers and the more than 11,000 partners and independent software vendors that sell or build on the Microsoft platform. Steven joined Microsoft in March 2014 as Director, Enterprise and Partner Group, responsible for driving business growth and building strong customer and partner relationships in the Australian Commercial and Public Sector markets.

In this role, Steven worked with organisations to drive innovation and business improvement through the application of technology in many areas, including productivity solutions, mobility and cloud services.

Previously Steven worked for IBM for 22 years and held a number of marketing, sales and general management roles in the services, software and financing segments of the organisation. Steven holds an Honours degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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